Robert Turley, Schultz, Bruce | 2/28/2007 3:51:05 AM
LAKE CHARLES – Gardeners eager to get their hands in the soil should plan to attend the Southwest Louisiana Garden Festival March 24-25 in Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.
The nonprofit event, being held from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 24, and 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 25, is organized by the LSU AgCenter through its Calcasieu Parish Extension Service office.
The festival theme is "Celebration of Gardening 2007." Among the items that will be emphasized are helping homeowners find local sources of plant materials, landscaping ideas, educational materials on a range of gardening topics, identifying plant problems, finding answers to garden questions and developing relationships with plant enthusiasts to enhance the gardening experience.
LSU AgCenter horticulturist Robert Turley said the festival will include a variety of activities for people of all ages and backgrounds, including commercial plant booths, a plant disease clinic, educational talks and demonstrations, a flower show and gardening activities for kids and adults.
"You can even rent a kid to haul plants from the coliseum to your vehicle," Turley said.
Participants are urged to enter the Burton Coliseum at the south entrance opposite the Livestock Show Barn. The $2 admission for adults will be collected by 4-H Club members. No admission is charged for children up to age 12.
The commercial plant booths will allow homeowners to meet people in the retail businesses in the area and to become familiar with the plant varieties and gardening items they sell, Turley said. Some companies also will have unique plant displays to demonstrate how plants can be arranged using size, color, texture and variety to create a special environment near the home, he added.
LSU AgCenter Master Gardeners, wearing purple and gold sport shirts, will be on hand to answer questions and help festival goers find plant sources and resources and to assist them in having a good gardening experience. Louisiana Master Gardeners are specially trained LSU AgCenter volunteers, who attend a number of gardening classes before the festival and are well trained to answer questions on plant care, plant selection and landscaping, Turley explained.
In addition, volunteers from area 4-H Clubs will be at the coliseum’s south entrance with wagons to help haul plants and materials from the display area to your vehicles for a small fee. The proceeds will go to support 4-H Club activities.
"Participants in the festival can help provide a positive learning experience for the youth as they provide community support and develop into better citizens," Turley said. "Please support these 4-H members as they raise funds to support their club."
The LSU AgCenter and its Master Gardeners also will schedule experts to answer questions about plant care. A disease clinic will be located in the northwest corner of the coliseum – where samples of diseased, distorted or insect-infested plants can be brought to obtain a free diagnosis and recommended treatment. Samples should be transported in zippered plastic bags.
A number of LSU AgCenter publications also will be on display at the clinic to serve as resources for gardeners.
Throughout each day, experts will present informal discussions on a number of topics, related to gardening and landscaping, in the Chalkley Room located near the south entrance of the coliseum.
"This is a good opportunity to ask specific questions about the details presented during the talks and demonstrations," Turley said.
Continuing the theme of celebrating gardening, the planning committee is encouraging businesses in the area to display their gardening books, literature, landscape ornaments, statues, water gardens, furniture and other garden items that make the home environment more livable and appealing.
In addition to those activities, LSU AgCenter 4-H agents for Calcasieu Parish and Junior Leader 4-H Club members will provide a fun hands-on activity for youngsters attending the festival. This year they will help youngsters make tissue-paper flowers and scratch stickers in the shapes of butterflies, beetles, ladybugs and dragonflies. Youngsters should look for the 4-H Club area near the south entrance of the coliseum.
Flower enthusiasts of the District 12 Garden Clubs in the southwestern Louisiana region also will deliver their best arrangements to be judged during the garden festival. Floral designs will be judged March 23 and will be on public display March 24 and March 25 at the festival.